HIGH TIMES Legislative Roundup: February 22

It was a busy week in the fight to reform the ridiculous laws against marijuana that continue to plague United States. Some of the biggest news comes from Vermont, where a recreational marijuana bill is progressing nicely in the State Legislature. Other highlights include a heavy push in Connecticut to establish a retail pot trade and discussions in the Missouri legislature over whether to create a more comprehensive medical marijuana program.

Read all about this and more in the HIGH TIMES Legislative Roundup for February 22:

Vermont: Legalization Bill Continues to Progress
An attempt to legalize marijuana in Vermont continue to progress in the state legislature. Last week, Senate Bill 214 received approval by the Senate Committee on Finance after it was agreed upon that a 25 percent excise tax should be placed on all retail pot sales. The proposal now heads to the Senate Committee on Appropriation before going before the full Senate for a vote. Although there is still some potential for the bill to hit some snags, it is expected to guide somewhat successfully through the next couple of weeks. If it manages to go the distance, however, the law would not take effect until January 2018.

Connecticut: Marijuana Legalization Measure Introduced to General Assembly
Representative Juan Candelaria has introduced a bill in the General Assembly calling for the legalization of marijuana for recreational purposes. The proposal would allow adults 21 and over to buy legal weed at retail outlets and contribute tax dollars to the state coffers. Lawmakers hope they can use the state’s more than $500 million deficit to persuade leadership to take notice of the bill. A similar measure was put in front of them last year, but it did not receive any attention from committee. 

Missouri: Medical Marijuana Is Debated
Missouri lawmakers are considering a proposal that would allow a comprehensive medical marijuana program to take shape. Last week, the House Emerging Issue Committee took a look at House Bill 2213 – a proposal that would allow physicians to recommend marijuana for a variety of health conditions, including cancer, glaucoma, HIV, ALS, Crohn’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, ulcerative colitis, Alzheimer’s disease, epilepsy and multiple sclerosis, and give patients the freedom to engage in home cultivation. The first public hearing took place last Monday, but the next one has not yet been scheduled. 

New Mexico: Senate Squashes Marijuana Legalization Bill
The concept of legal weed in New Mexico is dead for at least another year. Last Sunday, in a vote of 24-17, the Senate stomped out a proposal that would have legalized a recreational cannabis trade. Despite no evidence to suggest that legalization increases crime rates, nearly all of the opposing forces used this excuse as a reason not to support the measure. Yet, supporters of the bill argue that all is not lost. This was the first time in New Mexico that a measure aimed at legalizing marijuana made it the floor for a vote. Lawmakers hope to have better luck in 2017.  

Mississippi: Medical Marijuana Bill Submitted
Senator Deborah Dawkins has introduced a measure to legalize medical marijuana in Mississippi. Senate Bill 2358 aims to provide cannabis for patients suffering from a variety of debilitating conditions. Although the bill does not appear to come with a cultivation and distribution provision, it would allow patients to grow up to three plants for personal use. Essentially, the measure would make marijuana legal for patients as long as they hold a recommendation from a doctor, but the state would not allow for the creation of a retail industry. Home grows and black market connections would be the only two ways patients could get their hands on medicine. The bill has been referred to the Public Health and Welfare committee. 

New Hampshire: House Snuffs Out Proposals to Legalize Marijuana
Marijuana legalization has been shot down once again in New Hampshire. House Bill 1694, a measure that would have legalized recreational marijuana, giving residents the freedom to grow up to six plants, was snuffed out by the House after opposing forces voiced concerns that legal weed would only contribute to the state’s addiction problem. A similar measure was approved by the House a few years ago, but met its demise in the Senate. 

UPDATE: The State Legislature has rejected two of the three proposals aimed at legalizing recreational marijuana.

Virginia: Cannabis Oil Bill Passes Senate
The Virginia Senate passed a bill last week aimed at allowing the production of cannabis oil. Senate Bill 701 would allow patients suffering from epilepsy and a few other conditions access to CBD and THC-A oil. Last year, legislation gave patients the ability to have this medicine in their possession, but provided them with no outlet to legally obtain it. If the latest proposal goes the distance, cannabis products would be manufactured and distributed across the state. The proposal must now go before the House of Delegates for a vote. 

Utah: Medical Marijuana Ballot Initiative Planned
A group of Utah patients under the name TRUCE are planning to put the issue of medical marijuana up to the voters in 2016. Christine Stenquist, the founder of the organization, told Fox 13 that “Patients like me cannot stand idly by while powerful lobbyists and unwilling legislators ignore our plight. Multiple scientific polls show overwhelming public support for what the legislature appears unwilling to do – to pass senate bill 73 and legalize medical cannabis.” TRUCE will need to collect 101,744 signatures within the next 60 days to get their initiative on the ballot in the November election. 

Wyoming: Edibles Prohibition Advances
Wyoming lawmakers are pushing to define the laws against marijuana edibles. Last week, the Senate Judiciary Committee put their stamp of approval on a bill that aims to make possession of three or more ounces of edible pot products a felony with a penalty of up to five years in prison. Opposing forces argued that the bill was not an appropriate measure because it uses the full weight of the substance against a person – not the THC content. Nevertheless, the bill now moves to the Senate floor

Montana: Petition Launched to Eliminate Medical Marijuana
For the second year, Safe Montana has launched a petition in hopes of shutting down the state’s medical marijuana program. The group hopes to collect the necessary 24,175 signatures to get their initiative on the ballot in the November election. If voters would happen to approve this measure, all Schedule I drugs under the Controlled Substances Act, including marijuana, would be prohibited in Montana. However, it is unlikely this group will have any success. Safe Montana has struggled in the past to produce enough signatures to even come close to making it on the ballot. 

Hawaii: Marijuana Bill Preventing Home Cultivation Is Dead
A proposal aimed at eliminating the home cultivation aspect of the state’s medical marijuana program is officially dead. House Bill 1680, along with four other marijuana-related bills, failed to be heard by the House Committee on Health before the deadline. This means patients will be allowed to continuing growing at home for at least another year. The measure was originally introduced as a way to prevent the newly established dispensary program from being brought by patients who didn’t want to pay the high cost of retail weed. 

Michigan: City of Wyoming Wants to Regulate Marijuana Transportation
The Wyoming City Council wants to force medical marijuana patients to transport weed inside the trunk of their vehicle. A proposed ordinance would make it illegal for a registered patient to carry marijuana in their cars and trucks unless it is stowed in the trunk or in a place that cannot be accessed by passengers. Local lawmakers argue the ordinance is necessary because city police are finding an increasing number of medical marijuana cardholders in possession of marijuana. A second reading of the measure is expected to take place next month.

Oregon: Tax Free Pot in Recreational Stores
A key committee approved a measure last week that would allow recreational pot shops to sell weed tax-free to patients participating in the state’s medical marijuana program. Senate Bill 1511 would simply allow recreational cannabis businesses to sell products to the medical sector. It now heads to the Senate for a vote. 

Oregon: Banking Bill Approved
A proposal that would allow banks to work with marijuana businesses was approved last week in the House of Representatives. House Bill 4094, which was introduced by Representative Tobias Read, “exempts financial institutions that provide financial services to marijuana related businesses, researchers and laboratories from any criminal law of this state that has element that may be proven by substantiating that person provides financial services to person who lawfully possesses, delivers or manufactures marijuana or marijuana derived products.” The bill now goes before a Senate committee. 

Arizona: Bill to Ban Welfare for Pot
Lawmakers in Arizona are working to ensure that welfare benefits are not used to purchase medical marijuana. Representative Kate Brophy McGee recently introduced House Bill 2261, which would prevent Electronic Benefit Transfer cardholders from making marijuana transactions. The law already prohibits welfare benefits from being used in liquor stores, racetracks, casinos, and strip clubs. If this bill passes, the “unlawful use of cash assistance” would become a Class 1 misdemeanor. It now goes before the full House for a vote. 

Arizona: Bill for Dispensaries to Warn Pregnant Women About Weed
Instead of prohibiting pregnant women from using the medical marijuana program, lawmakers have devised a bill that would force dispensaries to put up a sign that "warns pregnant women about the dangers to fetuses caused by smoking or ingesting marijuana while pregnant and the risk of being reported to the Department of Child Safety during pregnancy or at the birth of the child." This proposal replaces House Bill 20161, which aimed to make it illegal for women with child to consume medical marijuana, even with the approval of a physician.

Colorado: Lawmakers Want Home Pot Grows Enclosed
Because children are apparently stealing marijuana from outdoor grows, lawmakers are considering a bill that would make it mandatory for medical marijuana patients to keep their pot gardens in an enclosed and locked space. The goal of this measure it to hold the medical sector to the same standards as the recreational, which is already required to keep personal cultivation areas in a sheltered space. The bill passed through committee last week, and now heads to the full Senate for their consideration. 

Illinois: Another Attempt At Adding Qualified Conditions
Lawmakers are working once again to give people with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) the ability to participate in the state’s medical marijuana program. House Bill 6199, which was introduced by Representative Carol Ammons, would amend the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act to include PTSD as a “debilitating medical condition.” Several attempts have been made to get this condition recognized by the state, but all of the attempts have been foiled Governor Bruce Rauner’s administration. The proposal has been assigned to the House Rules Committee. 

Arkansas: Medical Marijuana Initiative Approved
Medical marijuana could be on the ballot in Arkansas later this year. State Attorney General Leslie Rutledge has approved “The Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment of 2016,” submitted by Little Rock attorney David Couch. Supporters of the measure must now collect 85,000 signatures in order to earn a spot on the ballot in the November election. However, a second medical marijuana initiative is already in the midst of their signature collecting campaign. Arkansans For Compassionate Care has reportedly already collected 50,000 signatures in hopes of getting their proposal in front of voters this year. 

Iowa: Medical Marijuana Bill Advances With Changes
After a few changes were made, a proposal that would establish a cultivation and distribution system for medical marijuana advanced last week in the State Legislature. Unfortunately, before being met with a favorable vote, lawmakers reduced the number of qualified conditions from over 10 to three: epilepsy, multiple sclerosis and terminal cancer. Other amendments were made to the bill, including stricter limits to the number of cannabis oil producers and dispensaries. It now goes before the Way and Means committee. 


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